Modern Dilemma: Should Kids Pretend to Like Presents When They Don't?

If you haven't already seen Avocado Kid, he should really be your inspiration for getting through the next 24—48 hours of gifting. ("It's an Avocado! Thanks!")

But with the holidays comes that old chestnut: Should kids (and adults, really) pretend to like gifts they, well, don't?

We decided to hash(tag) this one out in a Slack group chat, where all good things happen.

Senior Editor Sarah-Jane Collins [1.31 PM]: Guys, I need your help. Do you think parents should teach their kids to be grateful for gifts, even if they don't like them? I totally do, but I recently had a debate with someone about it. Settle it for me please!

Editor Jennifer Owens [1:33 PM]: I essentially do, too. But I think that you do have to allow for them to tell you (later) that they weren't happy for the gift.

Sarah-Jane [1:34 PM]: Yes, totally—but for me it's about having gratitude for the gesture—that's a basic right?

Staff Writer Sara Nachlis [1:34 PM]: I think it's actually a good opportunity to teach kids about white lies that save hurt feelings

Jennifer [1:34 PM]: That's a fine conversation for inside your own family. But on the scene, they have to be polite and say thank you—that you're thanking the gift-giver for thinking of them.

Sara [1:35 PM]: Totally.

Jennifer [1:35 PM]: But the worst as a parent is when you haven't taught them that, and the kids says something like, "Ugh, this is awful."

Because that's what makes kids soooo special.

Like the time my son asked my co-worker, "Why do you have so many cracks on your face?"

Sarah-Jane [1:35 PM]: Oh no! How old do they need to be before you can start having that conversation? And what does it look like?

Jennifer [1:36 PM]: That's when you do the, "Oh, ha, ha, sweetie. Now, we want to say thank you to Grammy" And you may want to take them out of the room for a snack.

Sara [1:36 PM]: In Hebrew school as a kid we were taught about white lies this way: "There is no good that can come from you telling the gift giver you don't like their gift."

Jennifer [1:36 PM]: I think, Sara, that is a very good point. I'd say it's all wrapped up in the idea of teaching empathy.

Sarah-Jane [1:37 PM]: I know some parents who argue kids should say when they don't like something because it teaches them to stand up for themselves

Jennifer [1:37]: Ooooh, um, there's standing up for yourself—and being rude.

Sara [1:37 PM]: The other example we were taught was about wedding dresses. If you don't like a bride's wedding dress and are asked, "Do you like my dress?", you say yes.

Sarah-Jane [1:38 PM]: Hahaha—my grandmother was a primary school teacher, and every day she would come home from work with some hilarious thing a kid had said about her outfit.

Sara [1:38 PM]: Gifts are similar; it's someone trying to do something nice for you. Teachable moments, as Oprah would say.

Jennifer [1:38 PM]: I was proud of my 10-year-old who did NOT like his haircut at all a few times ago. He kept it to himself until we left the shop and then we talked about it together.

But I gave him thumbs up for realizing that having a meltdown on the scene wasn't going to help anything.

Sarah-Jane [1:39 PM]: Oh, that is good calm behavior re. the hairdresser.

Jennifer [1:39 PM]: Exactly. It's just stressful when they're happening in real time in front of the real person impacted—who you strongly suspect is waiting for you to do the teaching right then!

Sarah-Jane [1:39 PM]: But I feel like the hairdresser is one place you should speak up, right? Is this why some parents are all for letting their kids sulk about their present?

Sara [1:40 PM]: As an adult, if you received a gift you didn't like would you say something?

Sarah-Jane [1:40 PM]: Never.

Sara [1:40 PM]: Aren't we supposed to teach kids how to act? So why would we teach them otherwise?

Sarah-Jane [1:40 PM]: Or if someone puts food in front of me they've prepared and I don't like, I just try to eat it.

Sara [1:40 PM]: Exactly!

Jennifer [1:40 PM]: Or at least push it around the plate and think about another glass of wine.

Sara [1:41 PM]: Kids love another glass of wine

Sarah-Jane [1:41 PM]: Teaching me that one took years off my parents' lives.

Jennifer [1:41 PM]: HA!

Sarah-Jane [1:41 PM]: They should have given me wine.

Jennifer [1:41 PM]: It's never just about the gift given—it's truly about the thought. That said, sometimes you've got to wonder: "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!"

My girlfriend's fave text to me: Smiling Politely.

Sara [1:42 PM]: A thoughtful gift isn't always something you're going to like…It's not your thoughts.

Sarah-Jane [1:42 PM]: Yes. One of my best friends gave me a book for my birthday and I already had it, and had read it years ago, and absolutely loved it. But I pretended not to have had it already because he was so excited for me to read it. I waited a week and then raved about it to him. My takeaway was, "How well does this guy know me that he got me a book I love?"

Jennifer [1:43 PM]: That's really sweet—on both sides. And to realize that is what being a good friend is all about.

Sara [1:43 PM]: Maybe there's something in teaching kids in that moment to try and understand the thought behind the gift. Even if it's, "You used to like Legos, so I got you Legos for your high-school graduation."

Jennifer [1:43 PM]: I'd like for my kids to see beyond themselves and think about the other person's point of view.

Sarah-Jane [1:44 PM]: Yes. I am so interested in how to have these conversations. What do you say, how do you explain "other people's feelings" effectively?

Jennifer Owens [1:44 PM]: You can start conversations with the kids, as in, "Why do you think she gave you that?"

"Why do you think she went to the trouble of making us all dinner?"

And let them think and answer for themselves as you gently point them in the right direction.

Staff Writer Catherine Santino [1:45 PM]: I agree, I think we have to teach kids to be grateful for any gift they receive no matter what, and express that gratitude to the person who gave it to them. But conversations about it later could be a good thing, I think.

Sarah-Jane [1:46 PM]: Is it also worth asking them to think about how they feel about giving someone a gift? Like, do they get excited and hope the person is happy, and when they are it makes them feel good? Does bringing it back to them help?

Catherine [1:46 PM]: Yes, exactly. We should be teaching that gift giving is about intention, not the actual thing.

Jennifer [1:46 PM]: That would depend on the age. At 10 (and even 13), it's really all about you. So you're trying to pull them out of their me-me-me worldview.

Sarah-Jane [1:47 PM]: I see, makes sense. So we all seem to be team teach-them-to-hold-their-tonguesI would be fascinated to meet some people on the opposing side.

Catherine [1:48 PM]: I'm certain that they exist.

Sarah-Jane [1:48 PM]: They definitely do—I've seen the Jimmy Kimmel segments.

Sara [1:48 PM]: I don't see how that's good manners.

Jennifer [1:48 PM]: It would be fun to give them an ugly xmas sweater with a straight face and let them go

Catherine [1:49 PM]: I just don't understand. Those kids are going to grow up to be such jerks.

Sarah-Jane [1:49 PM]: Hahahaha, true.

Jennifer [1:49 PM]: Agreed.

Sarah-Jane [1:49 PM]: I guess parents have to pretend, too. My dad is so fond of telling me how much cold, burnt toast he ate on Father's Day when we were kids and would make him breakfast. Maybe these parents have had enough?

Jennifer [1:50 PM]: I think that's the generous view!


Catherine [1:50 PM]: I'm all for speaking up and out, but I also just think that there are times in life when you just have to shut up and deal with things.


Jennifer [1:51 PM]: Mic drop.

Catherine [1:51 PM]: I'm going to stitch it on a pillow for all of you for Christmas.

Sarah-Jane [1:51 PM]: I'm going to pretend to be grateful.

Catherine [1:51 PM]: GOOD.

Sara [1:51 PM]: Hahaha.

Jennifer [1:51 PM]: Fake it 'til you make it.

Catherine [1:51 PM]: Because you were raised correctly.

Sarah-Jane [1:52 PM]: A Christmas lesson for us all.